SPONSORS: Leding and McCullough.

Arkansas House and Senate Democrats have filed a bill that would raise Arkansas’s pitiful starting salary for public school teachers and give all teachers a $10,000 raise.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville) and Rep. Tippi McCullough (D-Little Rock), would lift the starting salary of Arkansas teachers from $36,000 to $50,000.

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All Democrats in the legislature signed on to the bill. Sadly, Republicans control an 82-18 majority in the House and a 29-6 one in the Senate. So the proposed legislation will likely only serve as a talking point to shame Republicans, whose long-promised omnibus package is likely to be significantly less generous to teachers while shoveling dollars to private church schools via vouchers.

In a press release, the Dems note that they’re meeting a challenge set forth by Gov. Sarah Sanders, who said in her inaugural address to legislators, “If you send me a bill that rewards our teachers with higher pay, I will sign it.”

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LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Senate and House Democrats introduced the Raising Arkansas’s Investment in Schools and Educators (RAISE) Act of 2023. The bill would raise Arkansas’s worst-in-the-South starting salaries for teachers from $36,000 to $50,000 and includes a $10,000 raise for every public school teacher in Arkansas. Democrats also filed a companion bill that would raise the minimum staff pay for all classified staff in public schools from $11 an hour to $15 an hour, giving many of our bus drivers, cafeteria workers, janitorial staff, and other staff a much needed raise. All members of the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses sponsored both bills.

Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders requested a teacher pay raise bill in her inaugural address to a joint session of the 94th General Assembly saying, “If you send me a bill that rewards our teachers with higher pay, I will sign it.”

“Arkansas teachers are paid worse than their peers in every other southern state. With the RAISE Act, we can right this wrong and deliver a huge win for our children in Arkansas’s public schools,” said Senate Minority Leader Greg Leading (D-Fayetteville). “We also know that our dedicated and hardworking staff, who make our schools run every day, deserve a raise. And that’s exactly what our staff pay bill will do. Right now, there is a majority in this legislature that wants pay raises for teachers and support staff. Together with these two bills we can build a brighter Arkansas for every child.”

“For over three decades, I taught in just about every type of classroom from parochial to private to public. I can say confidently that Arkansas is blessed with some of the very best educators the South can offer, but we are not paying them their worth,” said House Minority Leader Tippi McCullough (D-Little Rock). “The RAISE Act and our bill to raise staff pay are investments in our children and Arkansas’s future. They are not only investments Arkansas can afford to make, but ones that we must make in order to stay competitive for the best educators for our children. The Governor said she wanted a teacher pay raise bill, because she knows the dire need of our public schools. Well, here are the two bills that will take Arkansas from the worst-in-the-South to the very best. Let’s get this done for our children and families.”

Quick Facts on the RAISE Act + classified staff pay bill:

  • The RAISE Act will cost $350 million for the $10,000 raise and a one-time cost of $30 million to help districts meet the new minimum salary of $50,000.

  • The classified raise comes from a House recommendation out of the educational adequacy study to raise the per-pupil foundation amount for non-teacher employees. Our classified staff pay bill doubles the initial recommendation of a $2/hr raise to $4/hr. We achieve this raise with an $89 increase per pupil, which is around $42 million total.

  • When compared to surrounding states and the south, Arkansas has the lowest average starting salaries for teachers. (Texas – $44,527; Louisiana – $42,185; Alabama – $41,163; Tennessee – $39,024; Mississippi – $36,653 – source: National Education Association)